Janet Combs (copy)

Janet Combs

More than a year after moving into our fixer-upper, we are still “moving in.” How can this be?

Combining households necessitates a lot of reorganizing: how many wire whisks does one really need in a kitchen, and how many cordless drills does one require in a shop? For the past 15 months, we have been consistently consolidating, donating, and selling our unnecessary stuff on social media sites, but the end is in sight. I believe this weekend, we have finally moved our last stack of wood.

Ordinarily I would say this calls for a celebratory beach bonfire! But I am not talking about firewood — I am speaking of planks of quality wood, which were stacked in a garage in my husband’s former residence, and now will be squirreled away and stored in our shop.

These pieces of wood looked to me like, what can I say? Pieces of wood. But where I see an unwieldy, splinter-inducing pile of nondescript lumber, my husband sees a rocking horse for a future grandchild, or a charming window seat, picnic table or potting bench.

While I can recognize particle board — long before Ikea was invented, it largely composed my furnishings throughout college and my early apartment years — I can’t really distinguish mahogany from maple. Therefore, I was woefully deficient in the wood-sorting activity. At first, I figured “heavy” meant “quality”; but that proved wrong — for example, OSB, which you see as the backdrop in my exquisite column photo — is quite heavy, but not a keeper in the fine furniture-making category. Neither was thickness an indicator — I thought a handful of slim strips was just scrap for kindling use at celebratory bonfires, but apparently, it’s “trim,” which can be quite expensive.

One thing I could say with confidence about all of the boards was “eeewwww.” They were all covered with cobwebs and dusted with insect frass. Plus, they were suspended from a rack overhead, so I had to climb a ladder to reach them and pass them down one-by-one to our neighbor below.

Each time I removed a plank from the pile, several bug members of the generic “gross” genus would dart out from underneath and scurry in my direction. This was basically an hour of intensive exposure-and-response therapy for me, where my fear of or disgust with bugs had to be habituated. The first time, I made my involuntary, audible intake of breath and abrupt backward lean, but I quickly realized this was not a ladder-friendly reaction. I had no choice but to hold on and get through it. I now understand that this therapeutic method, however uncomfortable, really does work. Feel free to test me by having me lift up the top logs from your woodpile — I’m pretty sure I’m not going to jump at the sight of a bug anymore, although I have not yet started the Southern Region Fear-of-Snakes Program.

Toward the end of our task — and let me express gratitude that this was toward the end — I felt an unmistakable scampering up my bare arm, but I did not lose my grip on the ladder. Instead, I shook an enormous Palmetto bug out of my armpit and into the face of my neighbor below! Our neighbor is a big burly man who, among other manly habits, keeps a gun in his coffee table drawer where normal people keep their coasters. He dropped the plank he was holding and jumped up and down.

“Jan,” he shouted, “You just shook a cockroach on me!”

“Yep,” I replied. This marked my graduation from the high-altitude therapy session.

Once we loaded all of the wood into our truck and drove it home, we remembered it was up to just the two of us to unload it. In other words, it’s still in the back of the truck. But the Super Bowl will be starting soon, and we’re going to relax and enjoy it. Maybe Orkin’s one of the sponsors.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Her column is published regularly in the Georgetown Times. Contact her at https://janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.